A very nice article about
our toy program appeared in the Metro section of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
on August 31, 2006. It is included here by permission.
By Stephen Deere
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
The 75-year-old man drove
for two hours through a misty gray morning, with plastic bags filled with toys
on the floorboard of his minivan.
John Patton pulled up to
St. John's Mercy Medical Center in Creve Coeur, where his wife, Helen, climbed
out of the van and went inside. She took the elevator to the seventh floor,
walked into an empty office and sat a bag of toys on a desk.
"It's seldom that there's
someone here," she said. "So I just drop them off."
For the past 12 years,
Patton and a group of woodworkers have quietly crafted toys and activity kits
for children at local hospitals. Other than a handful of thank you notes,
they've received little recognition for their labor. And the vast majority
have never met the children who enjoy their work.
The number of toys
delivered to date: 21,644.
The toy makers are members
of the St. Louis Woodworkers' Guild, and a dozen regularly contribute to the
After delivering toys to
several hospitals on a recent Tuesday, Patton walked through his Crestwood
home, pointing out what he and others have made during the years. There were
tugboats and sailboats, cats, cars and a helicopter. There was a mouse with a
tail made from a piece of twine.
He gestured to an
elaborate wooden puzzle on the bar in his basement.
"We made 20 or 30 of these
one year," he said.
On that morning, his
delivery included 124 wooden airplanes, trinket boxes, mice and cats.
The story of how the toy
effort began is surrounded in a bit of myth.
According to some members
of the woodworkers guild, Patton started the toy program after his
granddaughter became ill. Seeing how much she and other children needed ways
to occupy their time, he created the guild's toy committee.
Not so, says Patton, a
Another member no longer
with the organization started the program, he said. Yes, he had a
granddaughter who was born prematurely and spent nearly a year in a neonatal
unit. But that was in 1995, a year after he started making the toys.
His reasons for being
involved are much simpler.
"It gives me an activity,"
Patton said. "I enjoy it. . . . They (the children) need activities."
In the beginning, the
woodworkers crafted and painted the toys, but soon the hospitals asked that
they deliver them unfinished so that the children could paint them.
"It really helps motivate
them out of their rooms," said Alberta Lee, a child-life specialist at St.
Last week, one of her
patients, Alex Mundwiller, 9, sat a table in a small room. His hands shook
slightly from a breathing treatment he had just received. All week, he had
been in and out of the hospital because of a severe asthma attack. He painted
a pine car yellow. It reminded him of the ones he saw in Cub Scout pinewood
"Can we paint more than
one?" he asked, gesturing to a wooden truck. "I kind of like that."
When was he going home?
Alex couldn't say, but when he got there, he planned to put the car and truck
on a shelf in his room.
While Alex painted, Lee
pointed to an ornate spinning top fashioned from four types of wood. Lee gives
them out as prizes.
Jerry Lammers, 73, the
guild's treasurer, makes between 100 and 130 of them a year.
In the basement of his
Fenton home, he had glued together strips of maple, walnut, oak and cherry
wood into a block. He spun the block on a lathe, using another tool to carve
out the top's shape. Sawdust flew.
"This is the trickiest
part," he said. "It takes a lot of practice."
Lammers spends about 10 to
15 hours a month making the toy tops.
"I just thought it was
good thing," said Lammers, also a retired engineer. "When you retire, you look
for things to volunteer."
While he's never seen any
of the children delighting in his work, he takes satisfaction in the number of
kids who have his creations. Over the years, Lammers estimates, he has given
away 800 tops.
"There must be hundreds of
kids in the area that have them," he said.
Copyright: St. Louis